Stephen Fry debating Ann Widdecombe on the worth of the Catholic Church

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134 Responses to “Stephen Fry debating Ann Widdecombe on the worth of the Catholic Church”

  1. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I probably wouldn’t debate Stephen Fry if he were claiming that two plus two equals six.

    • cinerik says:

      For the chance to talk to that man, I’d happily argue black was white and risk it all on the next zebra crossing I encountered.

  2. Jack Holmes says:

    Stephen Fry: International Flamewar Champion 2011

  3. lecti says:

    “Then what are you for!?”

    Boom!

  4. Teller says:

    Fry should’ve countered her billions of dollars of Catholic overseas aid with the billions of dollars of atheist overseas aid. That would’ve been so cool.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Unless the Vatican has finally sorted out alchemy, that overseas aid may be coming from collection boxes in the Third World.

      • Teller says:

        Depending on which seas.

      • Fileas Phogg says:

        I’m not quite sure what you mean to say here, and would like some clarification. Are you really suggesting that the Catholic Church does not bring about any net transfer of wealth from the rich world to the poorer? This seems incredibly unlikely, and would require a massive and deliberately perverse effort on the part of the Church to bring about. If not, then are you objecting to third-world receipts being spent on aid to the third world? If so, then why? Where should donations from the third world be spent? In France or Italy? Or by the Church on itself? Or are you objecting to the right of people in developing countries to give aid as such (to the Church, or to their compatriots) – that charity should be the White Man’s Burden (and prerogative), so to speak?

    • Fileas Phogg says:

      Cite, please? The only even vaguely comparable quantities of aid given by avowedly atheist organisations are those from the Chinese and (defunct) Soviet Communist Parties – which most Western atheists would find as unacceptable representatives of atheism as Western religious people would find the inquisitorial regime of mediaeval Spain…

      • Teller says:

        I can’t cite something that doesn’t seem to exist. The Catholic Church’s charity and global aid alone qualifies it as a Force for Good, which was the question. Mr. Fry seemed to be arguing whether the Catholic Church is relevant, which is smart, since the topic question had already been answered.

        • Except that most of the charity goes towards buying golden chalices… and that their “aid” includes washing disposable needles that have been used on HIV patients, and then give someone else a shot.

          You might like to read this:
          http://www.cephasministry.com/catholic_teresa_chapter_2.html

          I’m not saying that they do not *want* to be good, but wanting is not the same as doing.

          • Teller says:

            Chalices. Good grief. Anyway, thanks for the Mother Teresa take.
            http://crs.org/ 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Hey, why don’t you make a graph with two columns. One of them could be Catholic Charity and the other one could be How Many Millions Have Died Because The Pope Told Them Not To Wear Condoms.

          • Teller says:

            So the Pope is responsible for the spread of AIDS. I was a never a fan of singling out blame for AIDS, but you have no such inclination, so we’ll just have to disagree about that, too.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Are you an anti-vaxer, too? Or do you only agree with public stances against infection control when they wear a robe and miter?

          • Teller says:

            Am a flu-shot monkey and a disease-eradicating junkie. Your personal issues with the Pope’s views can’t be solved by me. I’m just your average sinner.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            If any other world leader told masses of un-educated or under-educated people in the Third World to forgo basic hygiene or medical advice at the risk of spending eternity in flames, would you defend that?

            For educated people, the Pope is like an elderly relative that they love but ignore; for people in the Third World, he’s Jim Jones.

          • Teller says:

            Think it through. If the “uneducated” masses of the Third World followed every directive of the Pope’s as blindly as people followed Jim Jones – sex would be confined to monogamous marriages and AIDS halted. Obviously, people follow their own counsel. You’ve made a false comparison simply for dramatic effect.

          • catgrin says:

            It may be that they don’t opt to follow the counsel of the Church. That said, I’d like to remind you of Archbishop John Onaiyaken’s debate statement about Catholic welfare.

            “…26% of the health institutions in the world directly involved with the treatment of HIV and AIDS are run by the Catholic church. And please note, that it is a well-known policy of our church, whenever we are engaged in social welfare work, it is always given to all without any discrimination, whether you believe or not, irrespective of creed. Indeed, it is an integral part of our faith that our church is made up of saints and sinners.”

            According to the Archbishop, to receive care, whether or not the people of Africa choose to follow Catholic doctrine, or even live a good life, is a non-issue. What only should be considered is their welfare, and with 68% of the infected world’s population living Africa, this is no time to wait for a cultural shift.

            The Catholic Church as a body does not disagree. In fact, when the Pope spoke against all condom use, he was speaking independent of the Church where pre-2009 “Catholic theologians and a special Vatican commission” had already found condom use acceptable for the prevention of illness, but not contraception. He was also speaking directly against the evidence provided by doctors in the region. In fact, Africa is where the development of the female condom has been successfully used to protect rape victims from HIV transmission – both from strangers and infected husbands.

            If you really think one year with no (or even decreased) condom use is no big deal, here’s how many people were (reported) infected with HIV in Africa in 2009: 1.8 million.

            http://www.amindatplay.eu/2009/12/02/intelligence²-catholic-church-debate-transcript/

            http://www.avert.org/worldstats.htm

            http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/20/pope-says-condoms-may-be-ok-in-some-circumstances/

          • Teller says:

            Good thoughts. As your last links states, the Pope reversed his condom stance in 2010. Why not earlier in the face of a plague: intransigence. But the waving of the Pope’s hand did not lift the blockade on condoms to Africa and reopen the supply. Condoms and the education about their use have been in great supply from health officials in Africa for years with or without the Pope’s approval. And people in Africa have been using them or not based on their decisions about the health risks to themselves and others.

          • catgrin says:

            I did know about the reversal. That’s why I gave stats for the one year, thanks. 

            But think for a moment about the full effect of his blockade: The Pope told believers, including infected husbands in some countries where it’s legal to rape your wife, that they should never use condoms. Also, the organization that runs “26% of the health institutions in the world directly involved with the treatment of HIV and AIDS” adopted a stance that condoms were not appropriate as a measure for the prevention of the spread of HIV. Female condoms were already expensive and hard to get. Add to cost the trauma of feeling that you are committing a sin by protecting yourself, and you’ve left women with no defense. We cannot know how many additional people were infected directly as a result of his statement, and as death is the outcome, isn’t even one too many?

          • $1909711 says:

            Yeah, no kidding. Thanks for the ‘education’ and medicine; now there’s way more of us and we’re all starving to death. This is so much better than living ‘godless’ and sustainable like we were before!

        • FrodeSvendsen says:

          I think I can destroy that argument with a single word: condoms.. The churches persistence in claiming that condoms are morally wrong, even a sin, is a plague on, for instance, Africa. From wikipedia: In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI asserted that handing out condoms is not the solution to combating AIDS and might makes the problem worse.

    • Martijn Vos says:

      “Fry should’ve countered her billions of dollars of Catholic overseas aid with the billions of dollars of atheist overseas aid.”
      Is there really billions of atheist aid? I don’t doubt plenty of atheists donate to good causes, but is any of that registered anywhere? There aren’t really all that many explicitly atheist organisations involved in charity work. Non-religious, yes, but that’s not the same thing. It’s likely that many Catholics donate to those organisations too.

      Fry’s really strong point was that he didn’t focus on the religion or its believers, but the very explicit damage that the organisation of the church and its leaders do, and especially that they do it by twisting and corrupting the religious ideas on which it was originally based. He focuses entirely on painting the Catholic Church as the enemy of what it is supposed to accomplish, even based on its own teachings.

      That’s the genius of Fry’s arguments. He doesn’t say: “Well, non-Catholics give money too.” That’s irrelevant. He points out that the Church goes out of its way to damage people, Christ, Christianity and the world. It accomplishes the exact opposite of what it claims to be for.

      In the interest of full disclosure: I’m protestant, and I think that not just the Catholic Chruch, but also many protestants corrupt and damage Christianity in a wide variety of ways.

      • Teller says:

        I was being facetious which I’m not very good at. We disagree about the benefits of Catholic relief and aid. Whatever helps the less fortunate, helps.

  5. David Llopis says:

    I must have missed the part where this was about atheism. Stephen made some cheap shots that turned me off, even though I’m on his side of the debate.

    • Multinörd says:

      Where did he even mention atheism? I think he discussed it surprisingly much within theology and the catholic church it self. He was mainly criticizing the dogma and how they are looking away from science and the modern world.

    • Fileas Phogg says:

      I have to agree. I generally dislike the redoubtable Ms. Widdecombe, but Fry has achieved a minor miracle in making me sympathise with her. He really doesn’t sound at all like he’s arguing in good faith (so to speak), and sounds really rather juvenile - complete with his habitual sixthformish showing off with words he clearly doesn’t really understand (most glaringly ‘nation-state’; Vatican City is certainly a state, but most certainly not a nation-state).

      • Go listen to the whole thing.  You will revert to your well-held dislike for her.

      • Brad Shur says:

        A nation is defined by a cultural identity, a state by its political sovereignty. A nation-state is a political entity that is defined by both.

        Do you contend that the vatican has no cultural identity?

        • Fileas Phogg says:

          I’d define it as a nation-state in the terms you’ve given, of course – the Vatican certainly has a sense of cultural identity. The problem is that neither you nor Fry are using the word as it is usually used by political theorists and philosophers. ‘Cultural identity’, as it stands, is not informative enough a criterion to be analytically useful – one might reverse your rhetorical question and ask ‘Do you contend that any state (defined, as you say, by unitary political sovereignty) has no cultural identity?’ Your definition is so broad as to make a distinction without a difference, which is precisely why no-one really uses it that way unless they (like Fry) want to lend an uninformed opinion authority with a spurious patina of jargon.
          The concept of the nation-state is one, whether you like it or not, which is (to greater and lesser degrees) laden with the baggage of Romantic nationalism. That is, an ethnic or ‘Völkishes’ element is typically imputed, which is absent in the case of the Vatican but (arguably) present in the case of France, for instance. There is no discrete body of people born ‘Vaticaners’, and no ‘Vatican nationalism’ (unless you mean ‘Catholics’ and ‘Catholicism’, in which case your definition falters again, for obvious reasons). The Papal States, and later state of Vatican City, are anomalous to the post-Westphalian conception of the nation-state. Vatican City is maintained as a state precisely to prevent its assimilation into a system of nation-states, wherein it would become beholden to or theocratically in command of one such state (Italy, presumably).

      • True. It’s a sovereign city-state, that has the same attributes as a nation-state, but the name, what a glaring mistake.

        • Fileas Phogg says:

          Actually, the point I was trying to make is that city states and nation states most emphatically do not have the same attributes… This is not controversial, as I keep saying, in the disciplines from which the term arises. It’s quite clear that there are people here who don’t care about the distinction, and that’s fine. The fact remains that the distinction exists, and is an important one in the history of modern political and cultural history. You don’t have to care to recognise that Fry’s throwing around impressive sounding terms in inappropriate ways for the sake of sounding more authoritative than he is – which was my initial point. The discussion has become a bit silly at this stage, in all fairness, though…

          • catgrin says:

            You said: “You don’t have to care to recognise that Fry’s throwing around impressive sounding terms in inappropriate ways for the sake of sounding more authoritative than he is”

            I refer you back to my earlier comment where I stated (while trying to find the source of a quote you provided, “I had a bit of trouble because it seems that much like Mr. Fry you have a penchant for large words and replaced ‘idea’ used in the article with the more voluble ‘impression’”

      • SolanumDulcamara says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation_stateIt pretty much defines a nation state.  It is not owned by heritage but by culture.  The pope can’t transfer the land if he got married (even though he can’t), like many many states that came before this idea.  The state also has a single culture.  I would say it actually fills this role more than any other nation in the world for having a uniform culture.  

    • Martijn Vos says:

      “I must have missed the part where this was about atheism.”

      Yeah, it’s not. It’s not about religion at all. It’s about how the Catholic Church is the worst enemy of what it’s supposed to be for. Fry doesn’t attack Christianity at all. He attacks how the Catholic Church corrupts it.

  6. TheEvilSloth says:

    You’d think that a man as intelligent as Fry would take the time to get the doctrine of extra ecclesium nulla salus right. I mean, the current Pope explains in very basic terms that it no longer means what Fry contends it does in his Vatican II era-writings.

    I love Stephen Fry, but he’s just dead wrong here, on a point he admits is pivtol to his entire argument.

    • Fileas Phogg says:

      He’s also not done any research on the history of abortion in Catholicism and Islam, for what it’s worth. Though the historical fact might displease many modern religious people (not to mention atheists loath to lose a talking point), but the modern idea that abortion has always been banned is simply untrue.

    • 1) You say “I mean, the current Pope explains in very basic terms that it no longer
      means what Fry contends it does in his Vatican II era-writings.”  You realize that this IS one of teh points he made.  Things no longer mean what they used to, even though the church decries “moral relativism.”  The church, like any other human institution, changes what is “rigth and wrong” as we mature and elarn as a species.  They have no moral high ground and, in fact, are on the low ground since they CLAIM to have insights into morality that others do not.

      2) You say “he’s just dead wrong here, on a point he admits is pivtol to his entire argument.”  this is hardly pivitol.  Go watch the whole debate.  They debated proposition was “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.”  Mr. Frye used dozens of examples to prove that that proposition is false.

      • Fileas Phogg says:

        I think the reason TheEvilSloth considers Fry’s caricature of Catholic attitudes to the status of non-Catholics to be pivotal is precisely for the reason illustrated in the argument (1) you present (glossing Fry). That is, Fry seem to believe that the Catholic Church presents itself as promulgating a single, timeless, and static truth, and setting this against a ‘moral relativism’ which is subject to change and revision. Why he believes this is unclear; Fry misunderstands the traditional Catholic view of the role of the Church, which includes both a special claim to truth AND a recognition of a continuing history of change and debate. In which respect it is not radically different from any other religion – except of course for the minority of extremists in every faith – or indeed many secular traditions of moral, political, and economic thought. (Not to equate science and religion, but this view of an epistemologically privileged process is also quite similar to the Popperian philosophy of science which is particularly popular among working scientists.) 
        It is also clear that Fry does not understand what ‘moral relativism’ means, either, with his fatuous ‘what it really means is thought’ (protip: this is not what moral relativism means). He’s also blithely unconcerned with the fact that many of the Enlightenment philosophers he claims as part of ‘his’ tradition (but whom I’m fairly confident he hasn’t actually read) also supported things like slavery and genocide (John Stewart Mill’s views of Native Americans, for instance, would make a modern reader’s hair stand on end). Again, the reason Fry feels he can gloss over the evils of secular or atheistic people (which many Enlightenment thinkers weren’t, but there you are) but not over those of Catholics seems to be, as above, his view that Catholicism must be a static and homogeneous trans-historical continuity for it to have any special claim to truth whatsoever. Which takes us back to TheEvilSloth’s view that Fry’s caricature of Catholic attitudes towards its own moral pre-eminence; Fry demands that the Catholic Church be everything or be nothing, and erroneously attributes this stance to it itself. (Apologies if I’ve misunderstood and am putting unpalatable words into your mouth!)

        You (Graham Martin) are quite right that Fry does point to some of the very real and terrible faults of the Church, for which it should certainly be castigated. It’s only frustrating that he weakened that very serious talk by saddling it with a half-baked hodge-podge of apparently un-researched schoolboy arguments which only make him look silly and pretentious – living up to his reputation (in the UK) as ‘a stupid person’s impression of what an intelligent person looks like’.

        • catgrin says:

          ‘a stupid person’s impression of what an intelligent person looks like’

          I decided to hop right out and find the source of your quote. I had a bit of trouble because it seems that much like Mr. Fry you have a penchant for large words and replaced ‘idea’ used in the article with the more voluble ‘impression’! Anyhow, it turns out the phrase comes from a 2009 Times Article that has a dead link. Pity. I really would have liked to read it. Missing out on that, I at least can provide you with this response to the article printed at the same time. Enjoy!

          http://laurenbravo.blogspot.com/2009/10/in-which-men-of-britain-learn-power-of.html

        • catgrin says:

          Now onto the meat of your statement. You claim that Fry believes that the Church presents itself as, “promulgating a single, timeless, and static truth, and setting this against a ‘moral relativism’ which is subject to change and revision.” but you’ve misunderstood the argument. In fact, during the speech, he discusses the problem of “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.” Fry has not misinterpreted the meaning of the latin phrase, instead he’s pointing out a flaw in the Church’s teachings. May I direct you to Wikipedia and then to the subheads “Catholic Interpretation”, “Inculpable ignorance” and “Controversy for the Catholic Church”?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

          Traditionally, “outside the church there is no salvation” was taken quite literally. You baptised a Catholic, lived a Catholic and – if you wanted to see your family in heaven – died a Catholic. No other option was available. In 2000, the Church lightened their weight on the views and claimed, “for those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit; it has a relationship with the Church, which, according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Now there is a schism within the Church itself – not just in Stephen Fry’s eye’s – and “Some sedevacantists hold that the Second Vatican Council did in fact defect from the Church’s infallible teaching, and that what is today generally recognized as the Catholic Church is a counterfeit, which therefore is not infallible.”

          What Fry is pointing out is that the Church ITSELF cannot decide between a static truth and moral relativism. They decide how to address issues based on need first, then rationality. After all, intercession, a core feature of the Church, is in no way being considered for modernization.

        • catgrin says:

          About the way in which Fry used the term “thought” while discussing moral relativism. He did, in fact, use it correctly. Here’s the quote:

          “But on the other hand we must remember, as the point that was made, is that the church is very loose on moral evils, because although they try to accuse people like me, who believe in empiricism and the Enlightenment, of somehow what they call moral relativism, as if it’s some appalling sin, where what it actually means is thought, they for example thought that slavery was perfectly fine, absolutely okay, and then they didn’t.”

          So, what he was saying is that moral relativism as opposed to objectivism displays the ability to have a change in thought with new knowledge. He just didn’t bother to teach a basic philosophy class on the subject. (Protip: using a pull quote that displays only half a stated concept won’t fly when a full transcript of a dialog is available.)

        • catgrin says:

          Next bit:

          “He’s also blithely unconcerned with the fact that many of the Enlightenment philosophers he claims as part of ‘his’ tradition (but whom I’m fairly confident he hasn’t actually read) also supported things like slavery and genocide (John Stewart Mill’s views of Native Americans, for instance, would make a modern reader’s hair stand on end).”

          Fry is not “blithely unconcerned with” (nor, I doubt is he unaware of) the past behaviors of philosophers. That is simply not what is being debated. What he IS concerned with is sanctifying those who have maimed and killed both for and through the Church, and have then been held on high for doing so.

          The Church opts to ignore past transgressions against humanity. The example Fry provided, Thomas More, was guilty of burning people for owning bibles written in English rather than Latin. (Before he began them again, no burnings had occurred for eight years.) Fry provided evidence that even though More’s acts occurred long ago, it was not a past transgression of ignorance by the Church by providing the year 2000 as the date that Thomas More was made the Patron Saint of Politicians. More was rewarded for his acts in our modern era, which shows that the Church has opted not only to ignore them, but justify them.

          If you’ll watch the video, even Widdecome nods and concedes this point openly.

        • hypnosifl says:

          I think Fileas Phogg is correct about the definition of “nation-state”, though this is a pretty minor point since Fry may just have been unaware of the technical definition of “nation state” as distinguished from a state, it doesn’t undermine any of his substantive points. But to address two other criticisms from Phogg which I think are rather confused:

          It is also clear that Fry does not understand what ‘moral relativism’ means, either, with his fatuous ‘what it really means is thought’ (protip: this is not what moral relativism means).

          Protip: it’s pretty clear that from the context Fry wasn’t saying anything about how he defines moral relativism. Rather he was saying that the Catholic Church throws around the accusation in such a loose way that basically any form of independent thinking which questions moral claims based on revealed religious truths (or the Catholic’s interpretation of them) is derided by Catholic authorities as “moral relativism”.

          He’s also blithely unconcerned with the fact that many of the Enlightenment philosophers he claims as part of ‘his’ tradition (but whom I’m fairly confident he hasn’t actually read) also supported things like slavery and genocide (John Stewart Mill’s views of Native Americans, for instance, would make a modern reader’s hair stand on end). Again, the reason Fry feels he can gloss over the evils of secular or atheistic people (which many Enlightenment thinkers weren’t, but there you are) but not over those of Catholics seems to be, as above, his view that Catholicism must be a static and homogeneous trans-historical continuity for it to have any special claim to truth whatsoever.

          Fry didn’t try to “gloss over the evils of secular or atheistic people”; the topic was whether the Catholic Church, an institution rather than simply a set of beliefs, was a force for good in the world. “The Enlightenment” isn’t an institution in the same way, it’s a set of ideas and ways of thinking. The fact that some Enlightenment thinkers may have been “bad people” in various ways shouldn’t affect our evaluation of the rightness or wrongness of their ideas, any more than we should reject Newton’s physics theories because the guy consistently acted pretty dickish towards his colleagues. I suppose one might have a similar discussion about whether Enlightenment ideas have on the whole been a force for good, but that wasn’t the subject of the debate they were having; and in any case I think it would be pretty hard to argue that if John Stewart Mill hadn’t existed, Europeans would have treated Native Americans any better (to the extent that a lot of Enlightenment thinkers had unpleasant attitudes, they were mostly just reflecting popular attitudes of the time which didn’t really stem from Enlightenment philosophies).

          By the way, I think accusing you of the “Gish gallop” was unfair. The Gish gallop refers to a specific tactic of throwing up a very large number of unrelated claims, which isn’t what you were doing; you were just writing long responses, usually confined to one or two basic topics. As someone who tends to prolix responses myself (see above), I think it’s rather anti-intellectual to complain about lengthy responses unless they are clearly being used as a tactic as Gish does, and I hate when people make such complaints to me during internet debates, so I sympathize. If a person doesn’t want to respond to everything, they’re free to say something like “there are a lot of things wrong with what you just said, but my time is limited so I’ll focus on just one.”

          • catgrin says:

            Hello there, Excellent post!

            It seems a minor point, but it’s an important one to note when discussing whether or not an entity is a force for good in the world. After all, you have to know what it is to understand how much it affects things, right? No question, Vatican City is a nation state. 

            Here’s why both terms “nation” and “state” apply to the Vatican, and here’s why BOTH terms need to be included in the description of it.

            “A nation refers only to a socio-cultural entity, a union of people sharing who can identify culturally and linguistically. This concept does not necessarily consider formal political unions.”

            Vatican City is made up of a unified group of people speaking an agreed upon language, with cohesive social and cultural beliefs. It can be identified as a nation. 

            “A state refers to a legal/political entity that is comprised of the following: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) a government ; and d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.”

            Vatican City meets all four of the above requirements to be identified as a nation.

            (Source: http://www.towson.edu/polsci/ppp/sp97/realism/whatisns.htm )

            If you still don’t believe me, read the book. “Vatican City” opens with the sentence, “The Vatican is the smallest nation-state in the world with an area of 108.7 acres.”

            http://www.bookrags.com/research/vatican-gwcr/

          • hypnosifl says:

            Well, you could be right, political science isn’t my specialty. The definition I came across when I looked it up on google books was this: “The nation-state is a modern institution, defined by the formation of a kind of state which has the monopoly of what it claims to be the legitimate use of force within a demarcated territory and seeks to unite the people subject to its rule by means of cultural homogenization.” It’s that last part that made me think Vatican City doesn’t really qualify, since I didn’t think it attempts to impose any special homogeneous culture or identity on the people living there besides the religion of Catholicism which it wants to impose on people throughout the world. But then I don’t know what life is like there, perhaps it could have its own unique institutional culture different from Catholic institutions elsewhere. And when you say the people there are “speaking an agreed upon language”, look at the wiki page languages of Vatican City, are you talking about the Italian used for ordinary “laws and regulations” or the Latin used for the “most important official documents”? The page mentions that there is no official language (although of course there isn’t one in the U.S. either), and that many languages are used routinely, for example members of the Swiss Guard swear oaths in different languages depending on where they’re from.

          • catgrin says:

            You need to go back and reread your source. The force implied has to do with an entity being a “state” not a “nation” and has nothing to do with the homogeneousness of its makeup. The force refers to a state’s ability to defend its territory. By employing the Swiss Guard, the Vatican has fulfilled that requirement.

            Uniting the people may be done culturally or ethnically. In the case of the Vatican, it’s a national united by a cultural belief that their leader is the worldly representative of God.

            Generally, Italian is considered to be an acceptable common tongue. On your own reference page it says, “The state of Vatican City has established no official language by law. However, in accordance with paragraph 2 of the Legge sulle fonti del diritto of 7 June 1929, it promulgates its laws and regulations by publishing them in the Italian-language Supplemento per le leggi e disposizioni dello Stato della Città del Vaticano attached to theActa Apostolicae Sedis.”
            It should be noted that even though they are inextricably linked, state law is separate from religious law of the Holy See. When referring to Vatican City, you are referring to the sociopolitical entity that the Church resides within, not the Church itself. 

            It is true that by its nature, the Vatican introduces an array of languages into its borders, but the same is true of Italy, Germany, Spain or any other number of European countries. With people traveling between borders, international speech is common and to be expected. 

          • hypnosifl says:

            I wasn’t talking about the “force” bit when I said “It’s that last part that made me think Vatican City doesn’t really qualify”, I was talking only about the very last part of the quote I gave, namely “and seeks to unite the people subject to its rule by means of cultural homogenization”. That’s why I talked specifically about homogenization, saying “I didn’t think it attempts to impose any special homogeneous culture or identity on the people living there besides the religion of Catholicism which it wants to impose on people throughout the world”. And that’s also why I talked about the lack of a uniform language, which is another common way that nation-states have tried to impose homogenization.

            Uniting the people may be done culturally or ethnically. In the case of the Vatican, it’s a national united by a cultural belief that their leader is the worldly representative of God.

            But that has nothing to do with Vatican City specifically, that’s just a general belief of Catholics everywhere. Note the analogy in my more recent post with the Islamist dream of a global Caliphate, which would also be united by religious beliefs but wouldn’t qualify as a “nation-state” (according to the author).

          • catgrin says:

            “But that has nothing to do with Vatican City specifically, that’s just a general belief of Catholics everywhere.” Because of the Holy See, it has everything to do with Vatican City. “Cultural homogenization” in a sovereign state overseen by a religion is done through the religion. The laws set down and adhered to by the members of that religion (dogma) are a method of unifying behavior. (There is no logical reason for a person to be burned as a heretic for reading a bible in English rather than in Latin, but adherence to the state’s rules required it, and so it was done.) 

            I provided the documentation from your own source that shows that an agreed upon language is used for matters of state (recording law). I won’t repeat myself.

            I also provided in a much, much earlier post, a list of ways in which the Vatican meets qualifications to be defined both as a nation and as a state. Meeting both those definitions is what makes a nation-state. A global Caliphate may have a central leader, but would actually act as a super-state of smaller nations. They’re not the same thing at all.

          • hypnosifl says:

            Because of the Holy See, it has everything to do with Vatican City. “Cultural homogenization” in a sovereign state overseen by a religion is done through the religion. The laws set down and adhered to by the members of that religion (dogma) are a method of unifying behavior. (There is no logical reason for a person to be burned as a heretic for reading a bible in English rather than in Latin, but adherence to the state’s rules required it, and so it was done.)

            But they aren’t attempting to impose that cultural homogenization on the state of Vatican City, but on Catholics everywhere. Burning of heretics is a good example for my case, since historically that happened all over Europe, not in Vatican City. If L. Ron Hubbard managed to get one of his Sea Org yachts declared a sovereign state, and used it as a base to give orders concerning the promulgation of Scientology throughout the world while also demanding adherence of 50 high-ranking Scientologists on the yacht (including some armed guards), would you thereby declare the yacht to be a nation-state? (and if you object to the fact that a yacht doesn’t have a fixed position, suppose he bought a tiny island and did the same thing)

            I also provided in a much, much earlier post, a list of ways in which the Vatican meets qualifications to be defined both as a nation and as a state. Meeting both those definitions is what makes a nation-state. A global Caliphate may have a central leader, but would actually act as a super-state of smaller nations. They’re not the same thing at all.

            How do you define whether something is a nation-state or “super-state of smaller nations”? Is this an accepted distinction in political science? The author of “Political Governance: Political Theory, volume 2″, who I would imagine is probably a poli-sci person given the subject, specifically used the notion of a global Caliphate as an analogy to explain why Vatican City should not be considered a nation-state. I can show you some other examples of poli-sci sources that question whether Vatican City is a nation-state, like Governing: An Introduction to Political Science which says on p. 34 “Systems like the United States, the Soviet Union, and India are universally acknowledged to be nations, while systems like California, Oxfordshire, and the Auvergne are recognized as cities, counties, and regions respectively. But there is dispute over the proper labels for marginal systems like the Vatican City and Tibet.” So while it certainly may be a question on which reasonable people (educated in poli-sci) can disagree, I think your strident argument that it is a nation-state, and any denial of this is plainly wrong, is going a bit too far.

          • catgrin says:

            I wasn’t trying to directly tie the example to the Vatican, I was giving an example of blind adherence to behavior due to dogma. Rereading, it is misplaced and could confuse as it did not only occur within the walls of Vatican City. I apologize for any confusion.

            “Imposition” does not necessarily mean “whips and chains.” In the Vatican, “cultural homogenization” exists in dress, moral codes, standards of practice and ethical beliefs. These are imposed by the Holy See, even if the members of Vatican City live there and practice them voluntarily. Don’t believe me? Run a google search for “Vatican City people.” Without even knowing who they are, you’ll be able to identify people who live there full time, maybe even know what it is they do, and exclude some tourists. You’ll have visitors who share common dress, but a girl in shorts and a tank top won’t confuse you.

            For Hubbard’s yacht to be recognized as a nation state, it would first have to be recognized by other nations as a nation. Through participation in the U.N., this has already happened for the sovereign power, Holy See, that rules the Vatican City. Would they do that? Also, your yacht wouldn’t “have a transportation system” it would BE a transportation system. It fails the test of definition there outright.

            I’ll provide a link here, which gives all the requirements that must be fulfilled for a place to be defined as a “state” and also has a general definition of “nation.”

            http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/statenation.htm

            In your example that discusses the global Caliphate, but does not correlate it with Vatican City (the link is above in a past post), the author states that Vatican City is, in fact, a sovereign state for leadership of the Catholic Church. This discounts any political action taken on behalf of the Vatican itself. It should be noted, that even indirect political actions taken by the Holy See are representative of its national culture. As Vatican City is the stronghold of the Church, acting in the Church’s interest generally means acting in the interest of the perpetuation of the Vatican. For example, if you represent the Holy See and try to sway law in favor of abstinence rather than condom use as a method of birth control, you are representing the will of those living within the walls of Vatican City. The same author on the same page also says, “The nation state is intended to guarantee the existence of a nation, to preserve its distinct identity, and to provide a territory where the national culture and ethos are dominant.” 
             
            My strident argument comes from the fact that the place in question has met the definition. Your argument against is just as strident, and so I don’t think my will should be dismissed as undue. The one link I provided in this comment gives a clear, easy to use method for determining if a place meets the definitions of both “nation” (the social bit) and “state” (the political bit). Vatican City has done so, and is only questioned as the political power it is because its sovereignty lies with the Church.

          • hypnosifl says:

            In the Vatican, “cultural homogenization” exists in dress, moral codes, standards of practice and ethical beliefs. 

            But all this stuff is just part of the Church hierarchy everywhere, you could say that any institution (say, the US military, or the offices of some major corporation) imposes “cultural homogenization” in this way, but no one would treat them as non-sovereign nations. As discussed here a lot of historians and poli sci people would consider the “nation-state” to be a fairly recent invention (like, 19th century or perhaps just slightly older), in which a government tries to homogenize a preexisting population that was more heterogeneous in order to give them a sense of national identity, like how historically “French” people from geographically separated locations would have spoken such different dialects (perhaps enough to qualify as different languages) as to see one another as foreigners, but then the state tried to enforce widespread use of what we would now call the French language (and probably also tried to culturally homogenize them in other ways). So for example, Tudor England would not be called a nation-state in this way of speaking, in spite of the fact that the Monarchy wanted adherence to the laws from the people, and under Henry VIII also wanted to impose adherence to a new Church. I don’t think you can just look at a short definition and say that technically some of the things that Vatican City does qualify as “homogenization”, in a field like poli sci or international relations you have to understand some of the background of where the term came from and why it’s considered conceptually useful, what they mean by the term which goes beyond a two-line definition, in order to decide whether an expert in this field would see the term as applicable in a given context.

            For Hubbard’s yacht to be recognized as a nation state, it would first have to be recognized by other nations as a nation. Through participation in the U.N., this has already happened for the sovereign power, Holy See, that rules the Vatican City.

            Huh? The U.N. doesn’t use the term “nation” to refer to the Vatican City, only “state”.

            Also, your yacht wouldn’t “have a transportation system” it would BE a transportation system. It fails the test of definition there outright.

            Which definition says a nation state must “have a transportation system”? Does Vatican City have its own special transportation system, or do people just use their own cars or feet to get around?

            I’ll provide a link here, which gives all the requirements that must be fulfilled for a place to be defined as a “state” and also has a general definition of “nation.”

            You’re using an about.com link to try to settle this? I said I was interested in the meanings used by poli sci/international relations types, that’s why I’ve been focusing on high-level texts aimed at academics and others with expertise. Do you really think there’s some precise definition that all academics agrees on that about.com is just transcribing faithfully? That may be how things work in physical sciences where terms have precise technical definitions, but not in the humanities.

            In your example that discusses the global Caliphate, but does not correlate it with Vatican City (the link is above in a past post)

            The quote says “Nationalists recognise that non-national states exist” and then follows it with two examples of what the author considers non-national states: “The Vatican City exists to provide a sovereign state for the leadership of the Catholic Church, not for a nation. The global Caliphate sought by some Islamists is another example of a non-national state.” So it “correlates” them in the sense of putting them together as non-national states, and it’s reasonably that if they put two religious states next to each other, the implicit suggestion is that they are rejected as nations for related reasons.

            My strident argument comes from the fact that the place in question has met the definition. Your argument against is just as strident, and so I don’t think my will should be dismissed as undue.

            “The” definition? Which one, the one from about.com? There isn’t a One True definition in some holy text of political science which all other sources just reproduce faithfully, the definitions you can find in various places are just people’s attempts to encapsulate the general sense of how the term is normally used by people who have expertise in the subject. In my experience it’s never a good sign when people try to confidently settle arguments about nuanced issues by appealing to short definitions in a dictionary or wikipedia or some other site (like someone trying to prove Obama is a socialist by pointing to some short definition of “socialism”); for some reason you I across this behavior a lot on the internet, maybe something about having texts handy that makes people impatient with the idea that things might be a little more ambiguous then they’d like them to be (the need for cognitive closure is a dangerous mental trap in discussions of intellectual issues).

            And I am only being “strident” about the fact that this is not the black-and-white issue that you see it as, I certainly am not stridently arguing that Vatican City is not a nation-state, I said before that “it certainly may be a question on which reasonable people (educated in poli-sci) can disagree”.

          • catgrin says:

            I understand your concerns, and I’m not ignoring them. Nor am I looking for cognitive closure. This entire discussion started because of an attack on Stephen Fry’s ability to use two words correctly when he referred to Vatican City as a “nation state.” My premise is that he spoke correctly. I’m not really arguing for myself. I’m arguing for the sake of Fry’s own well-considered argument which was being dismissed here for the sake of terminology (debating the debater, not committed by you). I wouldn’t be defending him if I didn’t think he was right.

            I do know where the term came from, and the history attached to it. The reason that I believe Vatican City is a nation state is in part due to the nature of the Catholic Church. Think about it. In democracies you have a government that hears the words of the people, and (sometimes) takes them into consideration when making law. The Holy See is a sovereign entity, which decides rule separate from the majority of its members. Not just that, the Pope is a a sovereign leader who can claim to be infallible. Other sovereign rulers aren’t the leader of a church which, until recently, claimed it was your one way into heaven. (Well, most aren’t.) The difference between the Church and other nation states is that it doesn’t make people behave through military force. It makes them behave through indoctrination and ritual combined with faith. Why should you worry about a bullet to the head, when you can worry about your eternal soul? It should be noted that only people within the Catholic Church are allowed to live in Vatican City. They do control and promote their culture, and it is a homogenous one.

            The About.com link I provided gives a set of criteria to meet for an entity to be defined as a state. They include acceptance of sovereignty by other nations and a transportation system. It may seem silly, but this set of “rules” is a basic guideline used to help freshmen college students determine between state and non-state entities. In providing it, I simply gave an active link to assist in coming to agreement about definition of the base terms “nation” and “state.” The information is available elsewhere, but I really was just trying to be considerate. Here are two “poli-sci appropriate” definitions of the base terms.

            Max Weber’s definition of “state”: a compulsory political organization with a centralized government that maintains a monopoly of the legitimate use of of force within a certain territory

            (By only allowing Catholic residency, Vatican City ensures compulsory adherence to its laws. By employing the Swiss Guard, Vatican City maintains use of military force. Vatican City itself is ruled by a sovereignty, the Holy See which is an internationally recognized political power.)

            Anthony Smith’s version of “nation”: named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths, and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members 

            (I’m sure in reading this you will agree that Vatican City meets the definition.)

            You say you want a “high level” definition of “nation state”. I already provided one from your chosen author in my last comment. The only definition he gives for a nation state in his text is, “The nation state is intended to guarantee the existence of a nation, to preserve its distinct identity, and to provide a territory where the national culture and ethos are dominant.” 

            (I feel Vatican City meets these criteria.)

            You now say you want no solid answer, but you sounded earlier as though you did believe this was a “black and white issue.” To quote: “In common parlance maybe, but I was talking about the more narrow definition that seems to be used by political scientists…” It certainly sounds as though you believe that political scientists, such as the one quoted above, (who is, in fact, an expert on the international criminal system, law terminology, and calculus as well) have an agreed-upon idea of what a “nation state” is, and so should not disagree about definition. I’m certainly not trying to shorthand arguments, or jump to conclusions. In fact, I’m pretty familiar with this discussion. You’re absolutely right that we can just agree to disagree, but I have even volunteered to argue my point based on your terms, and I feel that I have defended it well.

          • hypnosifl says:

            This entire discussion started because of an attack on Stephen Fry’s ability to use two words correctly when he referred to Vatican City as a “nation state.” My premise is that he spoke correctly. I’m not really arguing for myself. I’m arguing for the sake of Fry’s own well-considered argument which was being dismissed here for the sake of terminology (debating the debater, not committed by you)

            OK, I definitely think it’s going too far to definitively state he made a mistake, colloquially “nation state” is used in a looser way than in poli sci I imagine, and even in poli sci terms it’s considered an ambiguous case. But if you are arguing in definitive terms that it is wrong to say the Vatican City isn’t a nation state, then I would say you’re not acknowledging the ambiguity in this case.

            I do know where the term came from, and the history attached to it. The reason that I believe Vatican City is a nation state is in part due to the nature of the Catholic Church. Think about it. In democracies you have a government that hears the words of the people, and (sometimes) takes them into consideration when making law. The Holy See is a sovereign entity, which decides rule separate from the majority of its members. Not just that, the Pope is a a sovereign leader who can claim to be infallible. Other sovereign rulers aren’t the leader of a church which, until recently, claimed it was your one way into heaven.

            If you know the history, why are you arguing in such broad term like sovereignty and imposing a religion on its members? What about my point that historians and political scientists often don’t define it in such broad terms, as evidenced by the fact that they generally wouldn’t say pre 19th century kingdoms like Henry VIII’s qualified as “nation states”? That was a sovereign country, and Henry VIII tried to impose his own new Anglican Church (with him as the head) on the kingdom, with a fair amount of success.  If you think Henry VIII’s kingdom does qualify as a nation-state, then if you know the history and use of the term I think you have to at least acknowledge that you are using it differently than a lot of scholars (perhaps most of them). And if you want to agree with the commonplace notion that this kingdom would not qualify as a nation-state, can you pinpoint what crucial quality it lacks that Vatican City has?

            Here are two “poli-sci appropriate” definitions of the base terms.

            Max Weber’s definition of “state”: a compulsory political organization with a centralized government that maintains a monopoly of the legitimate use of of force within a certain territory

            Anthony Smith’s version of “nation”: named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths, and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members

            If you understand that it’s a distinct term with a distinct history, you should understand you can’t just take short definitions of the individual words and expect them to be enough to provide a good understanding of the accepted meaning of the composite term “nation state”. Wouldn’t Henry VIII’s kingdom satisfy both the above definitions individually?

            You say you want a “high level” definition of “nation state”. I already provided one from your chosen author in my last comment. The only definition he gives for a nation state in his text is, “The nation state is intended to guarantee the existence of a nation, to preserve its distinct identity, and to provide a territory where the national culture and ethos are dominant.”

            He never says anything about that being a “definition”, it’s just a description of what he thinks are the main functions of a nation state. Also note that on the previous page he gives some other suggestions about what the most commonly understood features of a “nation” would be.

            You now say you want no solid answer, but you sounded earlier as though you did believe this was a “black and white issue.” To quote: “In common parlance maybe, but I was talking about the more narrow definition that seems to be used by political scientists…” It certainly sounds as though you believe that political scientists, such as the one quoted above, (who is, in fact, an expert on the international criminal system, law terminology, and calculus as well) have an agreed-upon idea of what a “nation state” is, and so should not disagree about definition.

            I think you’re reading too much into my use of the word “definition” but you’re right that it could be read this way so it was a bad choice of words, I should have said something like “more narrow meaning” which just implies a sort of shared intuition about how the term should be used rather than a totally clear-cut definition. Again, think of the fact that many if not most would understand the “nation-state” to be a fairly recent innovation which wouldn’t apply to things like Medieval and Renaissance kingdoms.

          • Fileas Phogg says:

            I’d like to commend you for your patience and good humour! You’ve really put the rest of us (myself very much included) to shame with the high standard of your part in this discussion. I don’t mean to widen the gap between your politesse and my own maladroitness, but I feel I should at least suggest that you’re fighting a lost cause and might be better off abandoning it, as I shall be after this message.

            Catgrin has said in as many words that he/she takes Fry’s poseurs’ usage of ‘nation-state’ being perfectly correct as a premise, and is arguing from there. This pretty much precludes any compromises – which he/she has singularly failed to make, while insisting that it is you and I who have been cowardly, dishonest, vacillating, or intransigent in failing to ‘concede points’ to him/her. This is really underscored by his/her persisting in this (and unfairly accusing you of stridency, which couldn’t be further from the truth) in spite of the fact that you’re going out of your way to meet him/her half way in suggesting that the status of the Vatican City as a nation-state is really a matter of serious debate among political scientists and historians (there may conceivably be some, but in the past ten years in the field I’ve not come across any who’d consider the VC’s tiny transient multiethnic population defined on limited terms by jus officii to really have anything much to do with the modern concept of nationhood – any more, as you say, than the US Military or the IMF or what have you). Some people just don’t want convincing! Why then should we persist in trying to subvert a true believer’s blind faith? And what good is casting pearls, as the Pontiff might put it, before swine?

            Thanks again for your measured and thoughtful contributions, though – whether you decide to take my advice and call it a day or not! Cheerio!

          • hypnosifl says:

            Thanks for the compliment about my contributions, but I do think you’re being unfair to catgrin who has been completely polite to me, and never called me “cowardly, dishonest, vacillating”…the accusation of stridency was only a sort of tit-for-tat in response to my own earlier comment “I think your strident argument that it is a nation-state, and any denial of this is plainly wrong, is going a bit too far.” I haven’t read all the posts in the exchange between you and catgrin, so I don’t know if either of you has been impolite there, and if so who started it. The fact that catgrin keeps writing more posts about this can’t be taken as a strike against him/her since you and I are doing the same thing, on the internet I often tend to get into long debates about trivial issues because as long as I think the other person is misunderstanding my argument or not getting the point I feel compelled to respond, and they probably feel the same way…this comic covers it pretty well!

            And I don’t agree that Fry is a “poseur” for using “nation-state”, I said in an earlier comment that I thought it was fairly common colloquially to use “nation”, “state”, and “nation-state” interchangeably, no big deal.

          • hypnosifl says:

            Also just found that p. 67 of Political Governance, Political theory, Volume 2 on google books says: “Nationalists recognise that non-national states exist, indeed the struggles of early nationalist movements were often directed against empires, such as Austria-Hungary. The Vatican City exists to provide a sovereign state for the leadership of the Catholic Church, not for a nation. The global Caliphate sought by some Islamists is another example of a non-national state.” And p. 3 of Where Nation-States Come From mentions that “The United Nations in mid-2006 included 192 nation-states and recognized one other sovereign state as an observer, the Vatican City State.”

            Also, the book “Vatican City” which you mentioned isn’t a political science book, so I don’t think we can trust that they were familiar with the exact political science meaning of the term, just as Stephen Fry probably wasn’t. The site you mentioned was a poli-sci site, but I don’t know if most poli sci people would agree with your inference that Vatican City meets the definition of a “nation”.

          • catgrin says:

            I will accept the term “sovereign state” for Vatican City, simply because that’s another term for  a nation state.

            “In the United States, the most common word used to designate the sovereign entities that make up the world geopolitical order is “countries.” In common parlance, a country is the same thing as a sovereign state, which can also be called a “nation” or a “nation-state.””http://geocurrents.info/geopolitics/is-a-country-necessarily-a-sovereign-state

            Here are a few more of them (including the U.K.)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states

          • hypnosifl says:

            In common parlance maybe, but I was talking about the more narrow definition that seems to be used by political scientists (and by the U.N., which doesn’t consider Vatican City a “nation-state” as noted in one of the quotes I gave)

          • catgrin says:

            Incorrect. The U.N. deals with the Holy See, and not Vatican City. It is the Holy See which it refers to as a permanent non-member observer state. 

            The U.N. represents countries, not religions. Since the Holy See is considered to have sovereign power over Vatican City (the unifying culture is defined by religion), the U.N. cannot give voting rights to the Holy See.

    • SolanumDulcamara says:

      Well doesn’t that just prove his other point in spades?  The Catholic Church claims to be the holders of THE truth, that they know all that there is and are not to be questioned.  If you question them, then the dogma is true and you are not.  Then suddenly, whoops were were wrong, but we are never wrong, so we are just *clarifying* what we used to say to mean something completely different.  They claim divinity while they condemn people, but then turn around and say “We’re only human” when they realize what monsters they have become and change their position so they don’t seem so evil.  

  7. Tariq Kamal says:

    So, like, I haven’t heard it yet — I’m in the office and I haven’t got headphones — but I gotta ask: now that Stephen Fry’s debated on the worth of the Catholic Church, when will it be his turn to pwn some Muslim on the motion that “Islam is a force of good in the world”?

    Reframing the question that way really underscores the correct answer to this debate: “This is a stupid question, this is a stupid debate, and you’re all bastards and assholes for even bringing it up in the first place. Where’s the goddamn door?”

    • Kimmo says:

      Reframing the question that way really underscores the correct answer to
      this debate: “This is a stupid question, this is a stupid debate, and
      you’re all bastards and assholes for even bringing it up in the first
      place. Where’s the goddamn door?”

      It’s past time for common sense to include agnostic fundamentalism. Tolerance of religion is a problem.

      • mwirving says:

        I think it’s a healthy question to ask of any religion. From the individual examining their own practice of faith to how that individual practice fits in with the broader global role of that religion as an entity. People of other religions have to justify their faith all of the time. I don’t see anyone batting an eye at the often very public challenges laid to Muslims or Scientologists (no comparison between the two intended, by the way).

      • EeyoreX says:

         “Tolerance of religion is a problem”

        Yeah, there is no need whatsoever of people entertaining any deviating ideas, now that we’ve established once and for all time that my world view is 100% correct in all situations.

        Like, dude, are you deliberately trying to force this thread to go Goodwin on us?

        • How does “Tolerance of religion is a problem” mean that “there is no need whatsoever of people entertaining any deviating
          ideas, now that we’ve established once and for all time that my world
          view is 100% correct in all situations?”  Chill witht he straw man arguments.    

          That said, tolerance of religion IS a problem.  Example one out of a million: 

          http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/189720/20110730/warren-jeffs-poligamy-trial-sexual-assault.htm

          Warren Jeffs, leader of the Mormon offshoot cult threatens death for his juror and prosecutors and then says “Mockery
          must cease. This is sacred to us, and must remain sacred.”

          THIS is
          the problem with MANY world views out there. They demand the utmost
          respect simply because the beliefs are “strongly held,” no matter how
          crazy they may be.

          Two problems: First, I don’t care HOW strongly you
          hold your beliefs, if they contravene the weight of evidence, then they
          deserved to be questioned, refuted, and, yes, mocked. You have no right to
          threaten or injure someone because your feelings are
          hurt by someone ridiculing your strongly held belief. You have even less of a right to demand that we tolerate such behavior.  You can not demand that I TOLERATE your own intolerance.  You can not demand that I TOLERATE your death threats.  You can not demand that I TOLERATE your religion anywhere along the spectrum from jihads to your defense of kids bullying gay teens to the point of suicide.  (See recent Bachman revelations.)  We don’t reserve
          such respect for strongly held economic, political, scientific, or even
          sports fan beliefs, why is religion or philosophy any different? The
          second problem is, of course, that this “respect rule” doesn’t seem to
          apply to them when they discuss other faiths. How convenient.

          • EeyoreX says:

            Seems to me that you’re actually talking about your dislike of intolerance rather than the problems with tolerance.
            Or maybe you have tolerance confused with “acceptance”, wich is actually not the same thing.

            Anyway, I agree with you 100 percent that intolerant people are abhorrent and should be stopped somehow. But the way to stop them is not to act like them. “An eye for an eye” is how the biblethumpers do it. Surely we’re better than that?

          • Phyrkrakr says:

            It seems very simple to me.  If someone is an idiot, you should call them out for being an idiot.  If someone is wrong, they should be informed of their wrongness.  If someone is intentionally harming another person, they should be stopped.

            However, whenever anyone does these things in the name of a religion, they are tolerated.  Maybe not approved, maybe not encouraged, but they are definitely tolerated.  Instead of condemnation, ostracization, or any other effort against Catholicism for telling gay people they’re evil, they’re tolerated as a religion and a powerful force in the world.

            To take an example from America, could you imagine if the AARP said that all redheads are evil and have no souls?  They’d be destroyed as an organization.  No matter the good they do for seniors in providing insurance and health care.  No matter the money they raise for charities to fight elderly neglect.  The AARP as an organization would no longer exist.  Why does saying that a sky wizard told you something similarly stupid allow you a free pass in the minds of most people?

          • $1909711 says:

            I completely agree with you. Religion is an insult to everyone involved, including the practitioners, because it very blatantly denies the fact that every single person is unique and goes through life in a unique sequence of events and experiences and therefore couldn’t possibly be expected to have the exact same worldview as all others who throw themselves under a label.
            Every major religious organization has proven this time and again by constantly splitting off into endless factions, yet they still deny sanctity of individual perspective and every person’s right to their own personalized spirituality. They promote it as though it were filling some vacuum in their followers’ lives when it seems to me they’re the ones creating the vacuum by stripping people of their critical reasoning and replacing it with seriously outdated logic and concepts.

  8. knoxblox says:

    *Watching the clock to see how many minutes pass before the first obviously crackpot theorist posts his/her objections to either side of the argument*

    Is it me, or have the rates of crazytown and/or marketing posts seen in the threads increased significantly since Disqus has been implemented?

    • mat catastrophe says:

      I would just like you to know that I signed up a day or two *before* the Disqus thing. Also, I’m not sure how I like it.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Spam seems about the same to me. 90% of the spam is from Little Miss I-Just-Bought-An-XBox-For-$32.79. Plus, five flags will make it disappear.

      As to crazytown. Yeah, kind of. We’re getting lots of new, unfamiliar commenters since the switch who may not understand the rules. That should settle down in a month or so.

      • knoxblox says:

        Cool. I can admit that it doesn’t even come close to how bad it is on some of the news sites. This is where I come for peace of mind.

  9. mat catastrophe says:

    This woman has a singularly annoying voice. And ideas. Mostly her voice, though. I particularly like her cultural relativism, which is odd because the church consistently argues for a return to values of a past time.

    So, yea. 

  10. mat catastrophe says:

    Aww. I didn’t even get to see the bad thing.

    • Kimmo says:

      What, you were notified of a reply that isn’t here?

      I replied to you with a pic, which has to await moderation.

      • mat catastrophe says:

        That must have been it, although I thought it said it had been removed, not pending.

        Speaking of notifications, I should try to do that again – I got a 403 error from Disqus last night when I tried. 

  11. David Llopis says:

    Tariq, Kimmo, this was more about a huge & powerful religious organization than a religion.
    Stephen arguing about the existence of limbo… it’s like an atheist arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  12. tw15 says:

    The full debate comprised: Stephen Fry, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Ann Widdecombe and Christopher Hitchens. Here’s the original video of the debate
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kuzYwzGoXw&feature=BFa&list=PL021568E543D520A5&index=1
    http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/catholic-church
    The whole debate is worth watching.

  13. Forgive me for being pedantic, but the Christian denomination is called Anglicanism, not Anglicism.

  14. dav von TRI says:

    lol boy that lady has issues with catholic church or something…

    sorry i’m not protestent, i cannot just divorce at will, read that as foundation of certain faiths.

  15. Tomgliv says:

    Intellectual: “God doenn’t exist!”

    God: “Yes I do!”

    Intellectual: “No you don’t, I’ve got my eyes shut!”

  16. george57l says:

    What’s with all this debating people?  “Hitchens debated Tony Blair” “I probably wouldn’t debate Stephen Fry”.
    I always thought one debated propositions, motions, ideas, etc., and that one debated them WITH people.  The relentless American war on prepositions is getting me down.

    And tw15 is right – the whole debate is worth an investment of anyone’s time.

    • Fileas Phogg says:

      You may be unfamiliar with the British public-school sport of the debating society… It certainly is a matter of debating the person – so much so that debates (such as at the Oxford Union) are frequently held on deliberately absurd motions (‘This House believes that cats are better than dogs’…). Debating is primarily a game of public speaking, not a method for arriving at new or truer conclusions. Debating societies, concomitantly, are usually dominated by people with an interest in careers where public speaking technique is needed – principally law and politics.

      • AnthonyC says:

        It’s more than a little disturbing to me how debate teams train future leaders to try to win arguments on positions assigned to them by others, without regard for whether they are true or whether the debater believes them.

        Do the people running the debating societies not see how perverse that is, and how that same mentality distorts actual politics (not just in the UK either)?

      • george57l says:

        Actually, I am familiar with it – and one side debates a MOTION, and debates it WITH the other side!  The motion is what is debated, not the speakers on the opposing side.

        “I wouldn’t debate Stephen Fry” conjures up pictures of Antinous refusing to be a member of a debating team tasked with being on one side or the other of a motion: “This house does not believe in the existence of Stephen Fry”. Whereas what he meant to communicate was that he would not wish to debate any motion with Mr Fry, were he to be on the other side of whatever motion was in question.

        So I am familiar with the form, it is the misleading use of language resulting form the sloppy omission of prepositions, that I am concerned about.

        “You may be unfamiliar with the British public-school sport of the debating society… It certainly is a matter of debating WITH the person.”  There – fixed that for you.

        • Fileas Phogg says:

          Ah! Sorry! – I think I misunderstood you to be saying that debating isn’t a confrontational sport. One couldn’t possibly argue with your correction of the language, of course – but I’d be surprised if anyone really did read ‘debating Stephen Fry’ to mean anything other than ‘debating with (or against) Stephen Fry’…

        • Andy Johnson says:

          “it is the misleading use of language resulting form the sloppy omission of prepositions, that I am concerned about.”

          It is the sloppy usage of the word ‘form’ instead of the word ‘from’ that I am concerned about.

  17. stevelaudig says:

    Would someone be so kind as to direct me to a transcript of this. If one is extant. I don’t mind sharing my address stevelaudig at gmail dot com. In the measuring scales against this institution one might add the misery resulting from both church doctrine and church actions and inactions. Most especially it moral colorblindness to priests sexually abusing children. But I don’t care to get into a debate on such matters as the facts seem to obviate any need for debate.

  18. catgrin says:

    (Writing this having watched the full debate.)

    A major coup for Fry was his ability to maintain all discussions about sexually-related topics (homosexuality, condom use, AIDS, women’s reproductive rights, child rape, etc.) as serious issues with life and death outcomes. Widdecombe’s need to treat discussion about the subjects as though they had no place in the debate was a major blow to her side of the argument. 
    Her interpretation that all sex-related problems might derive from an inability to conform to church-proscribed family life, and were therefore somehow beneath the church’s consideration, was truly foolish.

  19. Warren_Terra says:

    The original debate is somewhat worth watching, though the only real standout is Stephen Fry’s speech.

    Still – and apologies if this constitutes spoilers – perhaps the most interesting thing about watching the full show is the audience vote. 
    On entering the hall, 678 audience members voted in favor of the Catholic Church being a force for good; 1102 against; and 346 undecided. After the debate, the votes were 268 in favor of the Church, 1876 against, and 34 undecided. Somehow, I don’t think people bought the line Ann Widdecombe was selling, even those predisposed to do so.

  20. Warren_Terra says:

    Oh, and on a more personal note, a warning about watching the full show: Anne Widdecombe makes claims about the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust that may induce vomiting or property destruction in the less reserved, the better informed, and the Jewish people who view the clip, and especially in those who fall into more than one of those categories. As an American interested in British comedies, I’ve encountered a lot of references to her over the years, references that generally assume that their audiences agree that Widdecombe is not merely wrongheaded but actually a horrible human being. I understand those references a little better now.

  21. SDukeEllis says:

    Stephen Fry has a unique gift. He can accuse you – in the starkest and most confrontational terms – without offending you. On the contrary, his accusations appear to come from a place of real compassion (and bafflement at the apparent inability of intelligent people to see what – to him – is obvious).

    Both speakers here have missed a key point here, although Mr Fry alluded to its neighbor with his “Ex Ecclesium” bit. But Ann Widdecombe’s bit about “standards of the time” neglects that Jesus is reputed to have said that the Church itself is His Mystical Body on Earth; the Mystical Body of Christ – being lead by one who is supposedly infallible – MUST be held to a different standard than its civil counterparts, or it is nothing more than a jumped-up welfare state.

    Can we not see the difference? You cannot claim to represent one who exemplifies the perfection of humanity while justifying or covering up what is clearly tremendous moral evil. The contradiction is too great to accept as a mere paradox.

  22. elondaits says:

    Please watch the full debate (links in a comment above:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kuzYwzGoXw&feature=BFa&list=PL021568E543D520A5&index=1
    http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/catholic-church
    )
    The animation is nice, but it makes a cut and paste hackery out of the presentations, which lose a lot of coherence.

  23. thebelgianpanda says:

    I can say without reservation that any post on BB that contains Stephen Fry is a wonderful thing.

  24. Fileas Phogg says:

    I’m not sure what you mean about a ‘step backwards’? I can only repeat that the term nation-state as it is understood by the body of theory which gave rise to it does not apply to sovereign city states such as Vatican City. As for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (which I have to say I’ve never seen referenced in an academic paper)… it’s not the font of all wisdom. In fact, a recent and much publicised paper in the journal Nature rated it as similarly reliable to Wikipedia (three as opposed to four errors in a sample of 40 entries, I seem to remember)… Wikipedia, incidentally, correctly refers to Vatican City as a sovereign city state and not a nation-state, and its entry on nation-state explicitly distinguishes the phenomenon from the Vatican City. 
    Your link to a lawyer representing Vatican City does not contain a single quote from the lawyer, but rather is a blurb write-up by a journalist. Neither the journalist not the lawyer refer to the Vatican City as a nation-state (only to the fact that this lawyer has defended ‘small nation-states’ in the past). You did read the link before posting, didn’t you? Incidentally, that brief article also contains the malapropism ‘defender’ in place of ‘defendant’, so I’m not sure how great an exemplar of terminological exactitude it would be even if it did contain the claim you say it does…As for the language used on private tour operators websites – well, I don’t feel it’s fair to comment on how useful a data point this is for your quixotic case.

    And finally: no, I don’t feel that this was the only error on Stephen Fry’s part. I’ve taken part (probably a bit too much!) in several conversations on this very page relating to factual and interpretive errors in his speech. You might find you don’t get so worked up about ‘strangers being wrong on the internet’ if you take a extra moment to read and reflect before rushing off to google ‘vatican city nation state’… I can also assure you that Stephen Fry is a very wealthy and popular man, who is in no need of your rushing to his defence over what are in the grand scheme of things pretty minor gaffes.
    (Edit: this post is in reply to that immediately above by Brad Shur – sorry, haven’t quite got the hang of this yet!)

    • Brad Shur says:

      I’m rushing to this supposed minor gaffe not because your being wrong on the internet bothers me so incredibly, or because poor Mr. Fry needs protection from this accusation, but because you’ve written a lot of rubbish in this thread and to properly address it all would require pages and pages. Since your method of communication seems heavily steeped in Gish Gallup, we’d soon be swimming in far too much text to digest. I picked one simple point that you found to be “glaring” and that was easily addressed.

      I was afraid that other posters in this thread might be confused by your rhetorical skills, and the massive size of your posts and not realize that none of your points were actually valid. Hopefully seeing you twist and dodge when corrected will bring home the point.

      Cheers!

      • Fileas Phogg says:

        You’ve ignored all points I’ve addressed to you, while I’ve earnestly tried to respond to each of yours. That does make my posts longer, and I apologise for writing more than a sentence at a time – I didn’t realise one had to be aphoristic here (nor did the dozen people who’ve modded up my prolix comments this afternoon, it seems). I think it’s pretty clear which of us is arguing in good faith, and I don’t think it’s the one waving the other away as somehow self-evidently ‘invalid’ ‘rubbish’, or characterising the other as ‘twisting  and dodging’ for questioning the authority of the dodgy, mis-spelled links they posted without reading first.

        If you truly had the courage of your convictions you wouldn’t bother to type things like the above – I’m sure there are plenty of people who read my posts and disagreed with or disregarded them. They don’t feel the need to tell me how terribly stupid and wrong I am. Yet you do… repeatedly, and in the most childishly gloating of terms. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. You’re fooling no-one, mate.

        P.S. I understand from your reference to ‘Gish Gallop’ (which I had to look up!) that you imagined this to be some kind of a contest between a rationalist (you, of course) and a religious polemicist (me). For what it’s worth, I’m not religious. The cause of representing an informed and sensitive face of atheism needs your kind of trolling ‘contribution’ like a hole in the head. Cheers.

        • Brad Shur says:

          Gish Gallop is a tactic that anyone can use. Notice I made no claims about your beliefs.

          You can write as much as you like, but when it’s a long series of half truths, strawmen, misunderstandings and outright lies, I’d be silly to try to address each point for point, because it’s a hydra of BS, with seven new falsehoods rising up from each point.

          • Fileas Phogg says:

            I must say it’s really dreadfully convenient for you that everything I write is so totally and utterly, irredeemably wrong that you couldn’t possibly say why! Just accuse me of lying in general, that’s just as good! Jolly clever, I’d say!

            I shall resist the impulse to requite your manifold incivilities in kind, though lord knows you’ve furnished ammunition enough in this brief and lamentable interchange.In other words: I’m done feeding this troll. Have a nice life, champ.

          • Marc Mielke says:

            How are you posting from the 19th Century like that? Did you walk in from one of the Steampunk threads? 

  25. Val Brooker says:

    Sneakey lying old bag tries to claim the money given by all of the UK nation as Catholic charity. Two thirds of UK citizens are atheists, a tiny proportion are Catholic.

  26. Darien Sepulveda says:

    Watch the full debate guys, Christopher Hitchens lays the smack down
    The posted video is a nice animation though

  27. catgrin says:

    I was busy writing my responses to your other opinions when you posted your response. 

  28. Anne Trotter says:

    Wow. Holy angry commentators, batman… 

    It’s difficult to discuss the value of a large institution when accurate metrics aren’t available. Also, every institution is composed of people, and individual people behave in good and bad ways, often depending on random factors like coffee ingested per hour. So. Since theology isn’t my main job, and there’s a lot of information to bring to this discussion, I’ll just stick with what I know. 

    On a personal level I very much dislike the sexism of the Church. I was Catholic as a kid, and the local priests would let me serve as an alter server – but when the Bishop came around I had to sit in the pews again, because by the rules girls weren’t supposed to be up there. It showed a disparity between official policy and personal beliefs which only grew wider as I got older, until I couldn’t ignore it anymore and had to leave and educate myself a bit about my specific worth as a human (it had taken something of a beating, despite my attempts to stay positive) and the history of religion in general.

    I found out a lot of stuff that the church doesn’t like you to find out until you’re an adult and have firmly set beliefs which are difficult to change. It was very painful, loosing the comfort of what I’d been taught – living without that emotional safety net still sometimes makes me homesick for that feeling I had as a kid. But I can’t go back and unlearn what I know, and even if I could I never would. How can I live well if I’m given bad information? I’d rather the truth, no matter how spiky and difficult, than false comfort. 

    In the end, this is what I believe: as a religion Catholicism might have started with good intentions but in the end it is a human organization devoted to the acquisition and exercise of power over people, and as such it is only as good as the people wielding that power – or failing to do so. It’s not something that I can ever see being a part of again, because it demands I give up the parts of myself that are most precious – and not to a God, but to the rules and restrictions conceived and designed by other people using God as both threat and treat, the carrot and the stick. I’m not a donkey. I don’t need the threat of hell or the promise of heaven to behave or to have hope. 

    I see no evidence to support any claim that they know better than I do how to live my own life, or that they are in any fashion more moral, ethical, kind and generous than I am. So I’ll live as I will, and any mistakes will be mine, and any good deeds will be mine, and if I’m judged in the end I’ll have no regrets and if I’m not – well then. I’ll still have had a good life to show. 

  29. Fileas Phogg says:

    hypnosif: you may well be right that what Stephen Fry had in mind was not his own conceptions of moral relativism but those of the See, but I suspect you’re being overly generous, and may have come up with a more interesting argument than he originally intended… I certainly agree that many Catholic apologists (including the Pontiff) throw that accusation at people who are not moral relativists. It doesn’t follow from any of this, however, nor from what Catgrin has argued, that there is some kind of relativist-realist schism in the Church, nor what if any bearing that would have on the motion being debated. His rhetorical question i quoted above (…then what is it for?) seems part of a general crudening of metaethical categories along those same dichotomous lines, and produces more heat than light… One (or a group, culture, tradition…) may claim to know better than another without having to claim to know everything. So much opposition to the (admittedly to my own eyes often rather impertinent) claims of moral superiority by one established tradition or another does tend to bring this kind of gainsaying out in people, but it isn’t really helpful either in convincing others or in clearly analysing what’s going on.

    Catgrin: You’re welcome to keep insisting, like Lewis Carroll’s Hunmpty Dumpty, that words mean what you choose them to mean, neither more nor less. But your discussion of extra ecclesiam… continues to erroneously conflate (as Fry does in his speech) the claim that the Church _as a community_ has a special claim to salvation with the claim that this or that view held by members of the Church at a given point in time has an absolute, static and unchanging, truth value. This point has already been addressed above, by me and at least one other. For what it’s worth, Catholic ecumenism also has a longer history than Ratzinger’s writing of 2000 – which you’ll see even from the pages you yourself have linked. I would also respectfully suggest to you (you’ve obviously gone to some effort here!) that if you are going to use weblinks to support your thesis, you might be more selective about the sources you choose, and not muddy the waters by suggesting they say things they don’t  (but which you’ve, perhaps tendentiously, inferred from them). You make many good points but posting random freshly googled sites with tangential relevance doesn’t really do your arguments justice.
    P.S. The jibe about Fry which you traced to the times I produced from memory, not mentioning the Times (where I hadn’t realised it originated – I don’t take the Murdoch press) – it’s entered pretty widely into common currency at this stage. I’m not sure why you’re so cross that I wrote ‘impression’ rather than ‘idea’, though – perhaps you’re taking this all a bit too personally?

    Antinous: I’m slightly disappointed that you didn’t reply to my questioning of your earlier post on wealth transfer – which does rather look like you’re casting about for reasons to hate the Church… I agree wholeheartedly, however, with your condemnation of the Vatican’s ruinous opposition to contraception. The comparison with the Jonestown massacre’s unhelpful, though – that was a different case in all kinds of pretty obvious ways… though on the other hand it arguably led to fewer deaths! Cardinal Martini, among other senior Church figures (he was a front runner for the Papalcy last time) have more sensible views on contraception, which I hope will gain ground in the coming years.

    • catgrin says:

      Clearly this discussion has devolved to the point where you’re no longer pretending to take it seriously, but I’m a patient person, so here we go…

      I’m not insisting that a word means what “I” think it means. I have only ever stated that Vatican City is a “sovereign state,” a particular form of “nation state” (one that is overseen by a sovereign entity, like the Pope or the Queen), and that this information is readily available in multiple locations. Your sole choice for source definition of the term (which I did explain does not exclude the Vatican as a nation state) does nothing to undermine the variety of others (provided by sources other than me) available to the average reader on the internet.

      Although you chose not to respond to my comment about it, and jump directly to a backwards attack, I’ll provide a link here to show that the U.N. does indeed only conduct business with the Holy See, not Vatican City, as you erroneously stated. http://www.un.org/en/members/nonmembers.shtml

      If you’ll go back and reread what I actually wrote about Fry’s comments on extra ecclesiam, you’ll find that you’ve completely misstated what I said. Shortest version possible for those with short attention spans: The Church itself has conflict over its sometimes fallible nature. The Church’s interpretation of extra ecclesiam being changed in 2000 caused one such conflict as traditionalists within the Church (who believe in the Church’s infallible nature) refused to accept any fallacy from the Church. You cannot have it both ways. The article I provided (including the related subheads) discussed extra ecclesiam and the effects of the schism within the Church.

      The reason that Fry brought up this conflict is the insistence by the Church that its members adhere to its rules without question (basically telling them ‘consider us infallible until we decide we aren’t’). That directly relates to the question, “Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?” in that blind adherence to dogma without logic or common sense can be a dangerous thing.

      My references were not randomly or casually chosen. I provided them because I believe if I quote something or make a claim, I should provide the source.

      P.S. It’s surprising the phrase is considered “common currency” when a google search of your version returned only one direct response, and that corrected the term “impression” with “idea.” Performing a correct search only gets five responses related to Fry, including  a Wikipedia article and two in defense of him, one of which I provided in my response to show that even at the time of the original article’s printing, not everyone felt he was “living up to his [negative] reputation (in the UK)”. I searched it originally in an effort to try to find your (in quotes but unnamed) source, and then I tried to read the original Times article, but the link is dead. 

      You may want to reread what you interpreted as a jibe. It was no such thing. I’m not cross that you wrote “impression,” and I only repeated my statement for one reason. I was pointing out the glass house you live in. I mean, you made the statement, “You don’t have to care to recognise that Fry’s throwing around impressive sounding terms in inappropriate ways for the sake of sounding more authoritative than he is” and then here you choose words like “erroneously conflate” and “tendentiously”? Please, be serious. 

    • hypnosifl says:

      you may well be right that what Stephen Fry had in mind was not his own conceptions of moral relativism but those of the See, but I suspect you’re being overly generous, and may have come up with a more interesting argument than he originally intended…

      I think you’re not paying enough attention to his wording–he is talking about what “they” (i.e. the See) call moral relativism when they “try to accuse” people like Fry of this, not his own notion of the term. From the transcript, here’s Fry’s actual quote:

      “although they try to accuse people like me, who believe in empiricism and the Enlightenment, of somehow what they call moral relativism, as if it’s some appalling sin, where what it actually means is thought, they for example thought that slavery was perfectly fine, absolutely okay, and then they didn’t.”

      Also, earlier in the debate he says that he personally believes in an ongoing search for moral truth:

      “I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the Enlightenment, a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world, and there is nothing, sadly, that the Catholic Church and its hierarchs likes to do more than to attack the Enlightenment.”

      So I really don’t think he would conceive of himself as a moral relativist, but of course he does approve of “thought” about morality, so I think his point is that when people like him try to engage in independent thought about morality in order to try to “discover moral truth in the world”, the Church tries (unfairly) to accuse them of moral relativism.

  30. Fileas Phogg says:

    For the last time, Catgrin – nation states are a subset, not a superset, of sovereign states. You are making a simple category error, and I really don’t know what drives you to keep insisting on this. You’re also confusing me with another poster (hypnosifl), which makes what you’ve just written hard to follow, and your remonstrations really a bit baffling. Please do calm down a bit!

    It’s clear that your understanding of debates within the Church is somewhat sketchy – that’s fine, and I can’t claim to be any authority either. People do devote lives of study to these things, for which half an hour’s browsing the internet cannot adequately substitute. But I find it most odd that you maintain so very vigorously both that the Church is apparently riven by foundational debates, and at the same time that it is a body which functions through ‘blind adherence to dogma’. That you do so while accusing others (and at this stage it’s unclear whom you’re addressing yourself to) of trying to have their cake and eat it, too, is really a bit rich.

    As for your repeated ‘gotchas’ over the phrasing of a joke about Fry I’ve heard at least a dozen times (shame one can’t google conversations)… well… I’m not sure what you think you’re proving, but you’re in danger of making yourself look a little bit petty. If you’re really trying to draw an analogy between my correct use of the words ‘impression’, ‘conflate’, and ‘tendentious’ (which I hear every day – in case you hadn’t guessed, I work at a university) with Fry’s incorrect use of ‘nation-state’, then I don’t really see where you’re going… If it’s just that you feel the lexis itself is inappropriate to this context (that is, too unfamiliar to you personally), then I really have to ask you who or what sets the rhetorical frame of reference here. I’m not in your house, so you needn’t tell me which words are kosher and which are not. If there is a FAQ for this site saying ‘don’t type like an academic’, please do point me in its direction. If not, then I shall have to say that I’m offended by your own indefensibly elitist and wilfully obfuscatory adopting of a writing style so distant from the vernacular of inner city London. Law’ tha’ bruv. Gwaan!

  31. Fileas Phogg says:

    Yes – I think you probably are right – looking at the transcript as a whole (rather than the bit on this page) does tend to lead one to that conclusion (much as my intellectual historian side itches when people talk about ‘the Enlightenment’ as though it’s a single phenomenon – granted that many convervatives in and outside of the church are as guilty of this lazy habit as Fry, who at least doesn’t spend as much time as they do pretending to be a moral philosopher ;-) ).

    I think you’ve phrased it far more clearly than he did, though, and his speech would’ve been much more forceful if he’d had you proof-read it for him! I can’t help but feel he’s sort of playing into their hands by saying ‘oh, you call all critical or independant thought moral relativism’ (which is neither strictly true nor at all likely to convince anyone), rather than something more along the lines you’ve suggested: that senior clerics often use the label of moral relativism indiscriminately to cudgel their opponents (rather as American rightists seem to label everyone left of them as ‘socialists’, or what have you). Thanks again for clarifying!

    • catgrin says:

      21 hours ago I clarified the same matter in much the same way and received nary a comment from you – much like your lack of comments on the U.N.’s dealings with the Holy See. It seems that with me you’ll only converse to attack, no to concede a point.

      • Fileas Phogg says:

        You still seem to have me confused with someone else – I don’t know what you’re talking about the Holy See for – and I think it’s quite clear that hypnosifl (with whom I seem to recall you discussing the distinction between Holy See and Vatican City for some reason or other?) is more than capable of speaking for him/her self. Please do try to distinguish between the people using this forum – we aren’t an undifferntiated mass, you know! In any event, he/she isn’t the onlly one I’ve conceded points to here, I think you’ll find – I’ve nothing against learning, nor am I at all afraid of making mistakes. (A wiser an than me once said that only fools and God won’t change their mind!)  If you do feel you’re not being properly understood while others are, perhaps you might ask yourself if you’re really comunicating as effectively as you feel you are. Ultimately, it’s something you’re going to have to work out for yourself, I’m afriad.

        • catgrin says:

          My apologies. It was you jumping in and rather than referencing a previous post, but putting together a comment toward me with a undirected group of posters while I was discussing the same topic with another person that caused my confusion about the one post. Next time, you might want you actually reply? 

          Speaking on responding —You enjoy attacking your opponent rather than their argument. The first of the two statements (now made 23 hours ago by me, and one of several points you chose not to respond to, perhaps you just knew you were in the wrong?) was indeed made in response to a statement made by you, and was a point you first argued with me, and then later conceded to another poster.

          Rather than reply to any of my statements directly and politely – which would force you to concede the points, you opted to make a blanket attack against me and call me names. That was after you attacked the character of Stephen Fry and Brad Shur. Neither of whom I am attempting to defend. I simply think it’s inappropriate to behave as you have. Do you read what you write? “Law’ tha’ bruv. Gwaan!” I wasn’t rude to you. Not once.

          You sir, are debating the debater rather than the topic. I have no more time for you.

  32. Fileas Phogg says:

    I’m sorry but I really can’t make sense of the first paragraph you’ve written, though I’ve now read it three times. 

    I’ve also gone and re-read, at your insistence, your comment which you claim says the same things hypnosifl later wrote. It really doesn’t – so far as I can make sense of it. Either you have not understood what he/she later wrote, or your earlier attempt at conveying the same idea has gone badly awry somehow. If I had understood you to have said what he/she said, who on earth wouldn’t I agree with you when I did with him/her?I’m fairly confident I never made any blanket attacks on your character, and am rather surprised that you don’t feel that you haven’t been rude, nor launched ad hominems. Again, I’m happy to understand that you didn’t mean to be come across as over-bearing, but finding one’s voice in text can be a tricky thing, as I understand only to well!  I’m not at all sure what you’ve been reading into my posts, for a start (clearly not the prolier-than-thou humour in my attempt at inner city London speech patterns – I had thought it was pretty clear that my objection to your not speaking like that was an ironic comment on your repeated objection to my using perfectly ordinary words to which you have for some reason taken a dislike)…If you honestly feel like an innocent and unjustly wronged party, whose unassailable informedness, clear communication, and ineluctable logic has been met with irrational baying and personal attacks, then I really don’t know what to say to you. mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, perhaps?

  33. Partido Communista Verde says:

    In spanish we say la nacíon política and la nacíon cultural are two things, maybe it is different in english. I think this is the problem. Benedicto XVI has his nacíon política, but if Chile is for the chileños and France is for the french and Germany is for the germans, then who is the nacíon cultural of the Vatican city?? Vaticaños!!?

    Everyone should just speak spanish and you wouldn’t have to argue! ;-)

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